CHURCH, The Television Show
“What do you have?” DJ asked Manager.
“The Boyfriend said no to us. If we don’t collect enough for McCafferty, we’re going to lose Church.”
“The Barracuda is going to wiggle his way out. Watch. He’s trying to build momentum against Noodle.”
“He won’t get anything on Noodle.”
“I’m not so sure, he’s working pretty hard.”
“Keep McCafferty in the loop. He has the force behind him,” DJ advised.
When Noodle got to work The Manager was in the office with The Supervisor sifting through a wallet that someone had forgotten at The Club, while Penguin worked to fix a computer.
“Did you find that in lost and found?” Noodle asked when he walked through the door. “Going through someone’s wallet is a really good way to get to know them.”
“What do you mean?”
“You can learn a lot about a person by going through their stuff.”
“You shouldn’t do that,” The Manager said and tossed the wallet aside.
“I’m going to need to take your laptop back to my house if you want it fixed, so I can replace the hard drive,” Penguin said to The Manager then turned toward Noodle. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep it safe. I bet some people would really like to see what’s on your hard drive!” The Penguin said as he carried the computer out of the office.
“Manager, I know you’re a really good guy!” Noodle said.
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, you always say the right things: Like, it’s wrong to go through someone’s personal belongings.”
“I was only trying to find out who it was.”
“Wanna hear a funny story?” Noodle asked. “There was a fight the other night at Lightning Bar. After security broke it up, an assailant turned and bludgeoned a guy in the head. The fight started again, spilled into the street, and rolled all the way down the block!”
“That’s why we don’t leave salt shakers out,” The Manager laughed.
“The assailant lost his cell phone in the scuffle. A manager picked it up and scrolled through the phone to find out who he was! They guy really caused a lot of damage and the manager found a picture of his penis in the phone; so he texted it to all of the guys contacts, including his mom!”
“That’s great…,” The Manager swallowed, “But you really shouldn’t do that. Where did you say this happened again?”
“Lightning Bar. Remember when I told you that I’m with you?”
“Manager, I really, really mean that.”
“But if you want to keep me, I need to make more money. I can’t make ends meet on two hundred dollars a week. Everyone else makes five times more than me; and this job has consequences!”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve been sick a lot more since I started working here. And I’m in good health; I exercise every day. I think coming near a thousand people a night, shaking their hands and stuff, puts me in contact with a ton of germs!”
“Noodle, just remember that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”
“Manager, you’re always prophesying my death! I really hope you’re right about that. I love you.”
The Manager gave Noodle Big Eyes, and then walked away. He went to find The Roommate. “What’s The Boyfriend’s number?” He asked her.
“I have an opportunity for him.”
“Something he can’t say no to.”
“He already said no.”
“Trust me, give me his number.”
“Why are you protecting Noodle?” The Manager asked when he got a hold of The Boyfriend. “What’s he done for you?”
“He hasn’t done anything against me.”
“Get this. He just told me that you told him that your boss texted explicit photos to the assailant’s contacts.”
“So, I want you to do something for me, and if you say no, I’m going to call over to Lightning Bar and tell them what you’ve been spreading around the street.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Go through Noodle’s files. I want a copy of his hard-drives.”
“I don’t want to hurt Noodle.”
“Look at it this way – he just hurt you – karma’s a bitch,” The Manager manipulated. “I’m not going to hurt him. We’re a club, you know how the industry works; I just need something in case he starts spreading our shit around the street.”
Noodle was downstairs, setting up stanchions at the front door when Southie Suits came into work.
“Did you get home okay from The Fake Irish Bar?” Noodle smiled.
“Jesus, that was a close call! The Supervisor got tipped-off that the cops were coming and we escaped out the back door.”
“Good for you. Something sketchy happened out on the street.”
“I heard; were you out front when that happened? How did you get away?”
“I floated through the police blockade as if I were invisible.”
“We’re having a poker game tonight after work at my place in South City. You should come,” Suits invited. His apartment was adorned with framed photos of the famed Tony Soprano.
“Southie Suits is so cool,” The Squish head said as an aside to Noodle. “We came over one weekend when he was out walking his pit bull and a bunch of Bloods were lined up on the street and they waved. They know who he is. They respect him!”
“Is your pit a girl or a boy?” Noodle asked.
“He’s a boy!” Southie Suits answered as if the question was insulting. “I’m a breeder!”
“Jersey girl just got a pit.” The SquishHead said. “I drove her to the breeder last month to pick it up.”
“Where does she live?” Southie Suits asked.
“Want to see something?” Southie Suits asked.
Suits got up and led them to the kitchen where he opened a cabinet filled with bottles of decade old scotch. “I snagged this from The McDougal’s tasting,” he bragged.
“I took some too!” The SquishHead said.
“Yeah,” Noodle smiled, “The SquishHead was slamming a five hundred dollar bottle on the bus. Suits, you must have five thousand dollars worth of scotch in there.”
“I know. I have a guy who will buy them from me. SquishHead, if you have any more bottles that you want to get rid of, I know a guy who will take them off your hands.”
“How’d you get all these bottles without getting in trouble?” Noodle asked.
“The guy who ran the tasting got wasted and forgot them. Even The Supervisor said it was okay to help ourselves.”
“Yeah, he said they were unaccounted for. Five cases of that shit disappeared within five minutes!”
They sat down and started playing poker. Noodle shuffled the cards while Southie Suits counted the chips, and The SquishHead made a list of winning hands to show to The Car Thief.
“I’ve never played before. I don’t want to lose all my money just because I don’t know how to play,” The Car Thief said.
Southie Suits looked up from the chips. “Think of it as paying for lessons,” he smiled. “Nothing in this world is free.”
“Where did you guys go after the Christmas party?” The SquishHead asked as Noodle dealt.
“We went to The Fake Irish Bar,” Southie Suits answered.
“An Irish Bar,” The Car Thief gasped. “Why would you go there?”
“Well, you know what The Fake Irish Bar is…right?” It sounded as if Southie Suits was about to blurt out, ‘It’s coke front!’ So Noodle flashed Big Eyes.
“What? These guys are cool,” Southie Suits said in reaction to Noodle’s warning and started to speak again when Noodle cut his hand across his neck. ‘Do not tell them,’ he whispered telepathically.
“Ah,” Suits stalled. “It’s…it’s an under aged drinking spot…,” he covered.
That it was, but the whole world already knew that. As the cards were passed around, The Car Thief was losing his shirt, and The Squish head was losing too. Noodle and Southie Suits were equally stacked when the cards that The Squish Head was shuffling spilled out his hand and all over the floor. He picked them up and started shuffling under the table.
“What are you doing?” Southie Suits scolded. “You have to keep the cards where everybody can see them!”
“Sorry man, I don’t know how to shuffle.”
“Give me the cards,” Southie Suits ordered. “We’ll push the dealer button around and I’ll shuffle for everyone, things will move a lot faster.”
Suits dealt a big hand; both he and Noodle went all in and they rose from their chairs to dissipate their anxiety.
Southie Suits turned over a flush.
Noodle had a strait flush.
“Shit dude, I really thought I had you! Why didn’t you push all in earlier? It doesn’t make any sense…you would have lost if you didn’t pull that five on the river.”
“Brother,” Noodle sighed. “I’m ‘all in’ in everything I do. I don’t need to push,” he smiled.
“I’m going to buy back in.”
“Hell no! You lost. It’s me and The SquishHead for all the money.”
“That went too quickly. I want to keep playing, and it’s customary to have buy-ins.”
“It is customary,” Noodle agreed. “But you need to set those terms at the beginning of the game.”
“Or I could call house rules.”
“Is that what you’re doing?”
“Yea.” Southie suits said. “This is my house; the rule has always been that you can buy back in.”
“I guess I can’t argue with that,” Noodle said while a new stack of chips were prepared.
Southie Suits put a bottle of dark rum on the table. “Noodle, you are welcome to have a drink if you’d like,” he said.
“No thanks, I don’t drink,” Noodle answered.
“I’ve heard. Why is that?”
“No reason beyond that it’s terribly unhealthy.”
“Discipline…Noodle, you are incredibly disciplined.”
“Thank you! But I’m not so sure about that,” Noodle countered.
The Car Thief and Southie Suits bought back in. Suddenly, The SquishHead was winning like a player – he was bluffing and slow-playing and throwing hand after hand of cards that looked like they were coming from a stacked deck. And then Noodle saw something up The SquishHead’s sleeve.
“SquishHead, roll up your sleeves!”
“Do it,” Noodle ordered.
“What are you trying to say, that I’m a cheater?”
Noodle stood up, ready to flip the glass table over.
“Noodle…Relax,” Southie Suits said.
“Come on, first this kid is shuffling under the table and now he’s pulling million dollar hands! I saw something white up his sleeve and he’s a self-proclaimed hustler. I’ve never played cards with him before, have you?”
“You have a good point Noodle; but, do you really think he’d be cheating over a forty dollar game?”
“There’s one hundred sixty dollars on the table, which is more than I make working three shifts at Majesty!
“No self respecting hustler would walk away from that!”